Today, Leo (5) didn’t want the iPad in the car on our way to school. Before, he used to cry if he didn’t get it. Leo is the fourth of my five children.

There’s one danger when saying no to a kid for an activity that they love, but which the parent considers detrimental, and that is that it increases its desirability.

In terms of value, the mere denial of permission increases the value of the activity to the child. So I have a very different, understandably questionable strategy as a parent – I tend to favor oversupply of the craving. My theory is that if it’s always available, kids learn to self-regulate and say “no” all on their own. Eventually, that unrestricted access leads to self-control through either satiation or sheer boredom; especially after they go through an addictive phase of whatever activity or toy they wanted incessantly. In my experience, the addiction is generally to watching TV, buying toys or playing videogames.

Of course, this parental strategy takes a lot of cold blood from parents when putting up with activities that they would normally not want their kids to do. It is tough to wait until the children themselves realize that there is a point at which too much of a good thing is a boring thing.

Tom (18), used to be really addicted to going to the toy store and playing games! And many times I would comply with his wishes. Eventually, by overindulging, he got really bored of conspicuous consumption and staring at screens. As a result, now that he is 18 he wants nothing, not even a gift for his birthday. And I mean this. He is frugal and hates conspicuous consumption. Indeed, now he frequently criticizes me for consuming too much, for example my own addiction to amazing bicycles. Tom is now into being with this girlfriend, his friends, listening to his music, studying and doing whatever is fun for him. Tom at 14 was glued to videogames. But Tom at 18 doesn’t do any activity that would be considered addictive. That strategy worked with him.

I end by commenting that in the case of my three daughters, I found them to be more social, less addicted to games or toys and less prone to spending endless hours in front of a screen. It is likely that boys are more prone to addictive activities and that saying “no” might not be the solution.

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Ferran on September 8, 2012  · 

Does it also apply to adults?

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Pablo on September 8, 2012  · 

This also applies to young adults. I can see it happening in the US with the restrictions of alcohol. In Argentina, by the time we reach 21, we already are bored of drinking, while in the US they go crazy at 21 because now they can drink legally. Something to think about…

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Martin Varsavsky on September 9, 2012  · 

I completely agree with no drinking until you are 21 in USA, it only makes drinking more desirable. Americans can go to war at 18 but only drink at 21.

Jose on September 8, 2012  · 

This happens with everything. Take sex, some of the people that are really crazy about it are people that were forbidden to do it. We tend to value more what is scarce and hard to get. When you have sex you discover is not such a big deal.

When I was a child my family will drink some alcohol with every dinner, so it was certainly stupid for me to see my friends get drunk or smoke on weekends like it was something that made them stronger because it was forbidden and hard on your body. When I said I did not want to drink some friends will tell me than in order to get used tolerant to alcohol I needed to drink more, like it was something like a strength test. I found it so ridiculous, I had a bar in my house with hundreds of bottles if I wanted to drink.

The same happens with Americans that see drinking as The Big thing because they can’t drink until they are grown ups.

About computer games, in the past computer games were designed only for men. Now a lot of companies are starting to design games for girls, it started from “The Sims”, it continued with facebook farmvilles and so. Different personalities means different games will catch you.

In my case I don’t play a lot of computer games but I really enjoyed games like Monkey Island, or flight or driving simulators.

The cost of not saying no is that your children will not value anything they have, witch is fairly typical of children with rich parents(I have a lot of them as friends and I know). They taking everything for granted, let them eat cake attitude:

I find other people from other origins to be much more resourceful and stronger in life. The children of rich people tend to be supported by those parents, not only economically, but also in personality as they tend to have the strong one, until they die, and you see the collapse of the entire family, people getting into drugs, prostitution, over spendings and malinvestments, because they can’t support on their own.(Padre arriero, hijo caballero, nieto pordiosero.).

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Silvia on September 9, 2012  · 

Hi, i share your opinion but there are many other points that I guess need to be taken into account. For example, i was grown up in a family with 5 kids such as yours, where restrctions naturally apply, cause you dont have 5 iPads, kids need tp share… Kids play amoung each other a lot and it is harder to get bored… Now I have one kid, one ipad, videoames… And plenty of time with no other kids, so it is much easier to get addicted to those things and harder to reach self control. Just a point 🙂

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Martin Varsavsky on September 9, 2012  · 

Siblings are many times better at showing limits than parents. They are also a better simulation of the real world.

HansC on September 10, 2012  · 

If I’m correct, your kids are in a Montessori school (mine as well, I love it), where kids are stimulated to find their own paths and take responsibility in a playfull way.

If one has such trust in their kids (probably because one also trusts oneself), then having kids experience him/herself is quite natural.

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Martin Varsavsky on September 13, 2012  · 

Yes, we are happy with Montessori Madrid. Self reliance, self responsibility lead to self esteem.

Petr Kovac on September 19, 2012  · 

I agree. Same experience with my two boys. Dificult time-period with extensive consumtion of computer games and TV is over 🙂

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